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Grand Groundcovers

Recently I was working with a couple who asked me to consult with them on their garden. They had re-landscaped their front entrance twice over a few years, but were still not fully pleased. They needed more landscaping plants and shrubs.

Wanting more usually means more areas to weed. Weeds are the number-one pest complained about by gardeners everywhere. Suppressing weed growth in your garden can be accomplished by planting your garden densely enough (without over-planting) to suppress weed growth and by maintaining a 2- to 3-inch layer of your favorite mulch. The most popular choice for covering the surface is to plant groundcovers, which are any plants that can cover the ground by spreading to cover a large area. The most commonly considered groundcovers are ivy, pachysandra, creeping juniper, wintercreeper, and vinca, also commonly called myrtle. These common groundcovers are great, but are so widely planted they are getting boring.

Perennial geraniums
If you want to add pizazz and color to your garden, choose plants that are a little different and plant them as groundcovers. Consider perennial geraniums like Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokova’ or ‘Karmina,’ Geranium x ‘Johnson’s Blue,’ or Geranium sanguineum ‘John Elsley.’ They have beautiful foliage ranging from 6 to 18 inches in height, depending on variety, and will fill in a large planting space in no time. Full sun to part shade is preferred by most varieties, with some varieties growing in deep shade and flowering in late spring to early summer. This is a perfect plant to use as a groundcover where you have both intense sun and shade throughout the day.

Green and Gold
Another favorite plant to use as a groundcover is Chrysogonum virginianum ‘Green and Gold.’ If you read about this plant, you will never be drawn to purchase it because most descriptions are simple and to the point. Once you plant it and watch it grow, you will love it and probably find several other places for it in your garden. It is not commonly found in garden centers and every time we get it in, it sells out quickly.

Green and Gold is a simple plant that prefers a shady garden space. It looks as much at home in a wooded garden as it does a more cultivated space, but definitely has a hint of natural wildflower to it. This low grower is perfect where height is a concern, growing only 6 to 8 inches tall, and blooms profusely in the spring and sporadically throughout the summer.

Leadwort
My final selection for an unusual groundcover is increasing in popularity and becoming easier to find, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, leadwort. It is a little slow to emerge in the spring but easily makes up for it when the gorgeous blue flowers appear. Amazing fall color can also be found on the 8- to 12-inch tall foliage.

When choosing groundcover, it’s fun to think outside the span of what is traditionally recommended. You have lots of choices for holding a hillside in place, planting under a large maple tree, or making a fluid, solid mass to move the eye throughout your garden. The next time you need a groundcover, check out the perennial section first. You will be surprised how many perennials will work as groundcovers.

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